Growing up in Baltimore, Justin Tucker’s indoctrination into outdoor recreation amounted to playing in a travel baseball league and skiing in the Poconos one weekend every other year. Not exactly the foundations to become the next John Muir, but in hindsight he knows that he was more fortunate than many in his hometown.
New York City
Trail Name: School
Elected to the Explorers Club in 1993
The day after graduating from college in 1966, James Robert “J.R.” Harris loaded up his secondhand VW Beetle and headed 4,400 miles toward Circle, Alaska, at the time the northernmost point to which you could drive in the Western Hemisphere. The 22-year-old had roughly $150 he had saved, a “care package” prepared by his mother and what he recalled as a “sudden, urgent need to get away for a while, to do something different, something adventurous.” It was the beginning of more than a half-century of expeditions to the farthest reaches of the planet that have earned him admiration as one of the planet’s foremost African American explorers.
Asheville, North Carolina
Trail Name: Mr. Fabulous
2012 Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker
Derick Lugo was in New Hampshire, only a few hundred miles short of completing his 2012 thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail (AT), when a hiker he had never met shouted through the downpour of rain, “Are you Mr. Fabulous?” Derick affirmed the trail name bestowed by his fellow hikers and asked curiously, “How did you know?” The man yelled matter-of-factly, “Because you’re the only Black guy on the trail.”
These are difficult times. Like many people, I have struggled over the last couple of weeks about how to best support my loved ones, colleagues and complete strangers in the fight for visibility, dignity and equality. For me, my passion for hiking, advocacy for diversity on the trail, and respect for my hiking community provide a platform for me to share their voices in solidarity. I hope you take the time to learn more about these trailblazing BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) individuals as I roll out their stories beginning later this week.